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Joint basing town hall
Timothy Downs, 62nd Civil Engineer Squadron, left, asks Col. Shane Hershman, Air Mobility Command Joint Base Lewis-McChord initiative director, a question concerning prescriptions at McChord’s pharmacy.
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Joint basing town hall answers questions, eases concerns for Team McChord civilians

Posted 9/26/2008   Updated 9/26/2008 Email story   Print story


by Airman 1st Class Kirsten Wicker
62nd Airlift Wing Public Affairs

9/26/2008 - MCCHORD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. -- Joint basing experts assembled here Wednesday for a civilian town hall to address concerns of civilian employees at McChord, answer questions and explain details of the pending merger between Fort Lewis and McChord.

More than 300 civilians attended the briefing and engaged in discussion of key topics of the town hall such as job security, salary, chain of command and issues related to the general realigning of the two installations. 

Col. Jeffrey Stephenson, 62nd Airlift Wing commander, greeted the audience and introduced subject matter experts. He also took a moment to address the number one concern reflected in a recent civilian employee online survey. 

"There is no intention of cutting our civilian workforce," said Colonel Stephenson. "I want to ensure everyone understands that up front. We are engaged now and will continue to be engaged. This is truly supposed to be a joint base. The mission that we execute is going to continue." 

Turning it over to Col. Shane Hershman, Air Mobility Command Joint Base Lewis-McChord initiative director, the event continued with formal background and briefs on joint basing. For many, the town hall was the first official briefing on joint basing they had heard. 

"We waited for guidance on what to brief our civilian workforce," Colonel Hershman said. "Finally, we went forward today to present what we know." 

According to joint basing officials, the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) 2005 law mandated the creation of 12 joint bases, including Joint Base Lewis-McChord. In this instance, the Army was designated the lead in managing installation support functions, while operational missions are to remain separate. Additionally, the Air Force will transfer ownership of real property to the Army. 

A minimum of 12 working groups are being considered for consolidation. These include facilities, fire protection and emergency services, environmental services, housing, community services, operational mission services, info technology systems management, supply logistics, community logistics, transportation logistics, command support and security services. Functional working groups have been established for each area. The civilian work force at Joint Base Lewis-McChord is expected to remain at the same level or increase. 

"There are 49 functional areas; and we have all [12] of those working groups out there," said Colonel Hershman, director for the joint basing implementation. 

Recent survey results from nearly 300 civilian personnel indicated that 71 percent are very concerned about job retention. Additional major concerns about the alignment included 81 percent listing job security as a concern, 37 percent listing cultural differences and 43 percent listing seniority transference. 

Civilian positions will be classified by the functional working groups, who are working to create the "to-be" - the final manpower states for the new base support organizations. Civilian positions will be classified as installation or mission support by Sept. 2009. Installation support positions will become Army civilians when the merger is complete in Sept. 2010. 

Civilians who may transfer to a lower-grade position will be placed in grade retention or pay retention and retain their current salary, said Colonel Hershman. Additionally, seniority is strictly based on service computation date (which includes all creditable federal service), so seniority will not be affected by a transfer. 

"We set up the working groups," Colonel Hershman said. "I think we have made great strides. We still have a long way to go. We have a better level of cooperation going on and that should filter down." 

A study is going on right now to determine mission versus installation support, it's not easy, he said. 

While questions were answered for many at the town hall, leadership noted many new questions and issues from the audience to be resolved. 

"My concern is about safety and quality of life," said Ken Heath, 62nd AW Safety. "Will the Air Force be forced to comply with Army standards or will our standards remain the same? This is going to be a challenge for the functional working groups to work out." 

For fire fighters, the concerns are about cohesion and group dynamics. 

"For the fire department, the jobs are there," said John Harris, 62nd Civil Engineer Squadron deputy fire chief and veteran Air Force fire fighter. "But what are they? 

The fire department is a family. We spend more time with each other than we do with our families at home," Harris said. "To go into joint basing and have a divided family, well, we are going to have to work through this to gain that same level of trust that is so crucial." 

"We appreciate everyone's questions and will work hard to ensure our civilians have accurate information as we work through the joint basing process," said Colonel Hershman. 

Wing leadership and planners will keep civilian personnel informed as updates arrive and future town hall events are scheduled. Additional information, guidance and questions and answers can be found on McChord's sharepoint Web site at

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